Minutes of Public Meeting to Adopt Constitution,
followed by Inaugural AGM at the Ormidale Pavilion
on Wednesday 15th May 2019

Members of Steering Group Present: Gavin Fulton (Chair), Robert Cumming, John Ford, Bob Haddow, Chris Attkins (Secretary)
Apologies: Sally Campbell

Forty members of the public were in attendance.

The Action Group

Activity

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Further Information

Where are our ferries?

Brodick Webcam
1. Gavin Fulton welcomed everyone to the meeting and explained its purpose to formalise the Arran Ferry Action Group and adopt its constitution. He invited comments from the floor regarding the constitution.

While he understood the Group's focus on lobbying, Nigel Armstrong suggested that in the light of CalMac's published performance figures, which exclude weather-related issues, the Group might benefit from conducting its own monitoring of the service overall in order to prepare evidence-based reports. Gavin welcomed offers of support to do this and pointed out that the constitution empowers the Group to take a holistic approach to tackling all the ferry issues. Secondly, Nigel expressed the hope that the Action Group would keep the island informed of its activities. Gavin assured everyone that it was the Group's intention to be transparent, and that it would publish online as much information as it could. By way of an example of this open policy, Robert Cumming explained that it was the Group's intention to publish letters sent to Government Ministers, followed by their response.

Gavin reiterated that it was not the Group's intention to criticise CalMac staff in any way, who were putting up with a difficult situation, nor those in other groups who have tried over many years to achieve improvements.

With no further questions, Gavin asked those present to approve adoption of the constitution by a show of hands. Support was unanimous.


2. The inaugural Annual General Meeting began with the election of office bearers.

John Ford, standing as Treasurer, told those present he had been a chartered engineer, nuclear physicist and designer of power stations. He was appalled by the ferry service being less reliable following government investment of £100m, which motivated his participation in the Action Group. John had been commended as treasurer of another organisation in Lochranza.

Chris Attkins, standing as Secretary, echoed John's motivation and spoke of his commitment to provide timely online reporting of the Group's activities. He emphasised the importance of widespread public support for the Arran Ferry Action Group, as was being solicited both online and on paper, pointing out its political significance.

Gavin Fulton, standing as Chairperson, spoke passionately of his frustrations with the decline in Arran's ferry service and his determination to bring about improvements. He then asked for a show of hands in support of his nomination as Chairperson, which was unanimous, as was support for the Treasurer and Secretary.


3. The Chairman then read out the list of other Committee nominees, beginning with Sally Campbell and Sam Bourne who were unable to be present due to participating in other events. He then invited those present to introduce themselves.

Robert Cumming said he had been coming to Arran all his life and lived at Lochranza for 14 years. He was determined to raise public concerns at the highest level to bring about changes for the better and spoke of the benefit of collaborating with the entire Western Isles to prevent yet more public money being wasted.

Bob Haddow explained that as a Community Councillor he knew how hard others had tried to bring about changes, but they had been ignored by those they petitioned. He too spoke of the need to form a Western Isles group that would be more representative. Bob expressed the ambition to bring about smaller, local improvements very soon, while working towards more ambitious goals.

Sharon Shenhav spoke as a part-time Arran resident for 15 years who had been a lawyer for fifty years, with experience of lobbying, drafting legislation, working with government ministers and civil servants. She reminded those present that she had tackled the Minister for Transport at last year's Cabinet meeting on the island over issues of passenger assistance, the elevators and onward connections. The Minister had been encouraging, asking her to monitor the service.

Andrew Walsh listed his involvement with diverse island organisations including his own business, Arran Active, chairing the High School Parent Council and being a trustee of ArCaS. He felt this would enable him to contribute from the perspective of the impact of poor ferry service on these organisations. Having served on lots of committees, he had expertise in dealing with those in authority.

There being fewer nominees than the maximum size of the Committee, the Chairman explained there was no requirement for an election and invited those present to approve the nominees' adoption as the Committee. Support was again unanimous.


4. The Chairman then announced the Group's intention to hold its first Committee meeting as soon as possible to determine a strategy for how best to lobby for change. He acknowledged this would not be an easy task, then went on to explain that the Group's aims and objectives had so far been categorised in terms of 'doability'. He gave as an example of an immediate no-cost step, reintroduction of the 'waiting list book' at Brodick. A potential low-cost short-term improvement, based on current infrastructure, could be persuading CalMac to sail to Gourock when weather prevented berthing in Ardrossan. Longer-term strategic aims include trying to influence what type of ships are built and harbour developments. The Chairman encouraged everyone to report their difficulties in using the ferry service, preferably backed up with documentary evidence, including photographs or video, which will be collated by the Secretary to support evidence-based submissions made by the Action Group.


5. The Secretary summarised the Steering Group's activities during its first month of operation, including the collection of names and addresses of nearly 1,000 supporters and the creation of a database of public opinion and feedback. He explained that this already painted a very clear picture of people's priorities. Meetings had been held with one of our local Councillors and an independent industry expert, Roy Pedersen, who believed that with widespread public support, the Group could succeed where others had been ignored.


6. The Chairman then invited thoughts from the floor regarding the Group's aims and strategy.

David Brookens echoed everyone's frustration at expert advice having been ignored and spoke in favour of forming an alliance right up the West Coast to speak with a united voice. He expressed disappointment that friends were leaving the island, largely due to problems with the ferry, and he worried about the impact of others taking similar action. He encouraged the Action Group to participate in the meeting with the Minister for the Islands next week. The Chairman knew of another retired couple who had recently left the island due to difficulties experienced with the ferry.

In the light of a report he had discovered, Nigel Armstrong suggested that Audit Scotland might prove responsive to public concern. Bob Haddow produced a copy of the report and explained that, very disappointingly, even Audit Scotland's recommendations have been ignored by both CalMac and CMAL.

As a member of the Ferry Committee, Neil Arthur cautioned against expecting any quick, helpful response from Audit Scotland. He reminded everyone that the person who originally ordered the ill-fated ships currently awaiting completion is now in charge of Scotland's finances, yet has remained unchallenged by Audit Scotland, in spite of pouring additional funding into the shipyard. He went on to warn of the consequences of no further ships having been ordered since 2015, which is certain to cause widespread disruption as older vessels deteriorate.

Elizabeth Ross questioned how the Action Group would fund itself. The Chairman explained that it had been decided not to levy a supporters' membership fee in order to maximise their number, but that modest donations would soon be sought to cover the Group's expenses.

Councillor Timothy Billings reported from that day's Council meeting, where it had been agreed to adopt the improvement plan for Ardrossan, which claimed to improve the reliability of any ship using the port. Official costs for this project would not be published until September. The improvement plan referred to 'seeking to minimise disruption to the ferry service', which Councillor Billings thought insufficient, exhorting the Council to settle for nothing less than 'no deterioration in service due to construction', but this had fallen on deaf ears. He felt the Action Group had a responsibility to overcome the Council's lack of understanding about the consequences of ferry service disruption and delays. At the request of the Steering Group, Councillor Billings had asked the Council to recognise the Ferry Action Group as a formal consultation partner, particularly in relation to the proposed works at Ardrossan harbour, but this had been refused, the Council insisting they would only deal with existing bodies. With the backing of such a large number of people, he felt the Action Group was a legitimate representative body and encouraged the Group to fight for recognition.

Jim Climie echoed concerns about the impact of harbour works on the ferry berthing at Ardrossan. The Chairman acknowledged there remained many unanswered questions, but agreed that Arran's ferry service must at all times remain the top priority.

Former London Transport planner and now High School teacher Michelle Bunting spoke emphatically of the need for integrated ferry and bus services. The Chairman acknowledged current problems, while cautioning that solutions were likely to prove difficult. He was minded to form a sub-group to look into this, with the support of experts like Michelle.

Retired bus driver Iain Hendry spoke of difficulties and additional costs involved in providing bus connections when ferries were running late.


7. There being no further points from the floor, the Chairman thanked everyone for attending and for additional insights provided. He restated that the Action Group would keep everyone informed, via the Group website, social media and the local press.

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